The Internet is a hotbed of food trends, but this may leave you scratching your head. Salted egg yolk is popular worldwide - from the United States to Europe - but it's actually a culinary tradition that originated in Asia and dates back centuries.
"A salted egg is basically an egg dipped in a salt mixture," explains Joyce Chiang, the 32-year-old Taiwanese-Canadian food blogger behind the Monkey Eats World blog and Instagram account. "During this process, the yolk dries out and solidifies into a hard cheese texture: salted egg yolks are popular in Asian cuisine."
Chiang has been eating salted egg yolks regularly since she was a child, and considers pastries, sticky rice and Taiwanese pineapple cake to be the most common ways she enjoys sweet and savory flavors. Her current favorite version is siu sha bao, a melted egg custard salted egg bun that is usually served in bite-sized portions at dim sum meals. "It's a flavor that reminds me of my childhood," she says.
But what do salted egg yolks really taste like?
"Imagine what a salted egg tastes like," Chiang tells Yahoo Lifestyle. "It tastes very rich and creamy - some people think it tastes a little like cheese." On a recent outing, Chiang even tried a savory egg soft-shell crab.
Given the versatility of both savory and sweet foods, salted egg yolks are commonly used in Asian cultures for pastries, cookies, garlic butter and even salted egg yolk potato chips.
They're even being used on French fries: in 2019, McDonald's restaurants in Singapore introduced salted egg yolk fries. But the dish is far from authentic - as the sauce has more of a creamy mayonnaise base, which has left many disturbed and thoroughly confused.
The backlash on social media has been intense, with one user describing them as "bleh" and another declaring that they are "still edible if you don't call them salted egg yolk fries".
This trend has spread to other international fast-food groups, especially in Southeast Asia. Kentucky Fried Chicken in the Philippines serves salted egg yolk chicken, while Pizza Hut in Brunei serves salted egg yolk pizza. Want to get iced on your next visit to Wendy's? In Malaysia, you can pair it with a salted egg yolk chicken burger.
Salted egg yolks continue to gain momentum globally, and not just in Asia. Internationally, the fresh, flavor-enhancing qualities of egg yolks have been used to add a layer of flavor to salads and avocado toast, grated over pasta, and even added to coffee. Yes, even your favorite caffeinated beverages are not immune to this trend.
The intense flavors inspired one of Torani's newest syrups, and the company is known for its innovative flavors, syrups and sauces that can be added to coffee and desserts, from Italian eggnog to lingonberries. With their cultural curiosity and the company's desire to seek out compelling flavors, salted egg yolk syrup was a natural fit for their 2022 Flavor of the Year.
"Our 2022 Flavor of the Year entry reveals the rising trend in culinary tourism and finds the perfect embodiment of the salted egg yolk trend," Andrea Ramirez, Torani's consumer and customer market insights manager, told Yahoo Lifestyle. "Consumers stuck at home for two years crave new and interesting experiences, turning to global flavors to satisfy their craving for adventure."
But what does Torani's Salted Egg Syrup taste like?
"The flavor is a combination of sweet and savory, and there's a certain craving for it," Ramirez explains. "It has a sweet custard top note and a surprisingly fresh flavor with a deep orange hue."
"Salted egg yolk sounds surprising as a flavor, but it's perfectly acceptable and has an inherent familiarity," she added. "Most people know what eggs and custard taste like, and they probably all have their favorite ways to make each."
When adding syrup at home, she recommends using it in cold brew coffee, espresso drinks, milkshakes and boba tea.
Admittedly, I had never tried salted egg yolks until I saw them on social media, but I'm a Hong Kong-style egg tart, filled with custardy pastry shells whose flavor profile isn't too far off. I tried Torani's new syrup in a home latte and found it surprisingly delicious and very approachable - even for the less adventurous tastes. As someone who loves black coffee, I liked how the salty flavor of the syrup balanced out the sweetness from using almond milk. The color of the syrup is also noticeable compared to the appearance of the salted egg yolk.
Those who want to keep up with the trend can even make their own salted egg yolks at home. Of course, I had to give it a try. For research.
The process for quickly curing egg yolks is very simple and almost too easy not to try, requiring only egg yolks, salt, an airtight container and time (about a week to be exact).
Recipes online vary and some add sugar to the curing mixture, but I stick to salt as most recipe creators do as well. After carefully separating the yolks, I placed them in an airtight container lined with a generous amount of salt. After placing the yolks in the salt - separately - I gently poured more salt on top until they were covered, like a thin layer of snow.
I put the sealed containers in the fridge for 12 days - although many people do it for shorter or even longer. After removing them from the mixture, I carefully washed the salt off each yolk with water and placed them on a lightly greased baking sheet in the oven: it is recommended that the yolks be baked at 150 F and further dried for 90 minutes. Since my oven is only 170 F, I improvised and left them in the oven for an hour, then let them cool on the counter for another hour.
So how do they taste?
I was first taken aback by their bright orange color and overall appearance - the yolks looked like mini Babybel cheese rounds wrapped in colored cellophane, unlike the food in its natural state. With the first bite, I was hit by the intense richness - the flavor was almost creamy with a lingering taste of salt on the back end. The texture was very much like soft cheese. Honestly, I can understand why people grate salted egg yolks on their pasta and soups, but as far as flavor goes, I didn't get the cheesy taste. I also didn't get the egg flavor from the taste: salting the yolk creates a distinctive flavor.
Would I go through this somewhat lengthy process again? Probably not. But I'll keep using Torani syrup and keep an eye out for those melted custardy salted egg buns that Chiang describes the next time the snack truck goes by.